The Gaines Group

Does hiring an architect save you money?

“Hiring an architect should save you time and money, minimize bumps, streamline the building process, and provide an accurate picture of how the project will turn out before a single nail has been driven” ~ Bob Vila

Does hiring an architect save you money? It is a question I have been working to document for years as my biggest competition for residential projects is an online plan purchase. I contend that the biggest problem we have with inefficient homes existing in our community are online plan purchases.


The majority of homes built each year are not – designed – in order to “save money.”

The save money idea is only an up-front cost decision. I can easily show that it does not save money in the long run – perhaps even on day one depending on the online plan. Energy-efficiency, water conservation, and durability are never included holistically when you cut out design. To be clear, a house that is drawn without a site, client, climate, orientation in mind is just drawn and not designed. No minor changes by the builder or drafter will convert an online plan to a custom home.


So back to the original question, does hiring an architect save you money? In a discussion yesterday with a builder that has worked with me on several houses and renovation projects, he noted, “the houses you draw always seem to come in less per square foot than other homes I have built.”  We spent a few minutes thinking about why this would be true. Our roof lines are not as complicated and dimensions are rational – this reduces wasted product, speeds up construction by reducing lumber cuts, and optimizes processes. Our home designs have a project manual that guides the performance desired of systems and reduces unanswered questions prior to construction. 


So does hiring an architect save you money? It seems from a narrow case study of a half dozen homes that this builder has constructed, it costs less per square foot to build a house we designed. I can also show that homes we design are more energy efficient for the systems to operate saving monthly on energy and water usage – up to 60% savings on one home that we tested over industry averages. So to really drive the point home – it costs less per square foot to build and costs less to operate – I think we have the question answered.

Do you need to hire an architect?


I get a lot of calls about building additions, renovations, new construction, and building science issues. So do all the people calling me need to hire me – NO. I am happy to offer my help where possible for everyone that calls me. However, not everyone needs to hire me. This past week I visited a home that wants to finish their attic and add a stair. There are only three options for stair locations so the design options are limited. The original construction was designed to have the finished attic, but they did not include design for where to put the stair. So do they need to hire me. It depends. If they want the stair to have an integrated look I could be very helpful. If they want to just add a standard stair, I don’t think they need me if they hire the right contractor (I provided a list of good contractors). So was it a wasted trip for me? No, I don’t think so at all. I was able to identify a major energy / air quality issue that the home owner can fix when they do the renovation. I identified the three potential locations for the new stair. I built goodwill with the potential clients. I provided a lead to a couple of the quality contractors in town.


So when you are deciding if you need to hire an architect – give me a call and lets talk through the process. There is no charge for the initial meeting and even if you don’t need me, I can direct you to contractors that do good work and you can trust. 

Lexington Custom Home